'It's horrendous': Fitness firm set up by fraudster collapses owing £500,000
PUBLISHED: 08:48 18 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:10 18 July 2019
A fitness firm which was run by two scammers has collapsed owing customers almost £500,000.
Customers paid hundreds of pounds each to Lowestoft company FitLearn to take online personal trainer courses. But many have been left with no qualifications and part-complete courses.
Its founder Scott Wolfe, 38, from Unthank Road, Norwich, was jailed this month for four years for running fake online nutrition courses through a separate company.
His partner Katie Hope, 34, was jailed for two years for her part in the fraud.
But before Scott and Wolfe were jailed, and while under investigation by Norfolk County Council Trading Standards, they ran FitLearn.
FitLearn has not been subject to any investigation or criminal charges.
In April an acquaintance of Wolfe's called Neil Debenham took over FitLearn and has now put it into liquidation with debts totalling £525,000.
Mr Debenham, who was himself previously banned from being a director of any company for seven years, refused to answer our questions about how such huge debts piled up. The firm has only £11,700 of assets for creditors.
We asked why so much money was owed to students and what that money had been spent on.
We also asked if he knew about the extent of the debt before taking over the company.
The vast majority of the money owed, £473,700, is to students. Another £30,300 is owed to banks and finance companies, almost £6,000 to a landlord and £12,500 to trade creditors.
One student, Christopher Hole, 32, from Swansea, said: "The whole process, the secrecy, the lack of contact or being able to contact anyone is horrendous."
He questioned why the qualification awarding body, the NCFE, had endorsed a company run by someone like Wolfe, who has 14 previous convictions, including for dishonesty
A statement on the website of Fitlearn's liquidator, Leading, dated May 3 said: "The director's primary concern was the welfare of the company's students."
Explaining the liquidation it said: "The company was approached by an unconnected third party who made an offer to purchase the customer list and contracts. Despite extensive negotiations, the sale fell through and no other offers were forthcoming."